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Plan celebrates power of youths' voices at UN event

Members of Plan's YUGA program attended the event, held at UN headquarters in New York.
Members of Plan's YUGA program attended the event, held at UN headquarters in New York.
August 18, 2010

On August 12, 2010, Plan played host to an evening reception at the United Nations headquarters in New York City to celebrate the opening of the youth photography exhibit, Visual Voices: Youth Perspectives on Global Issues.

The event, held in collaboration with the UN Youth Programme and Shoot Nations, celebrated the power of youths' voices as agents of change at the highest levels. The event coincided with a day-long launch at the UN of its International Year of Youth: Dialogue and Mutual Understanding.

At the reception, a keynote address was given by Audrey Bracey Deegan, Interim President/CEO of Plan USA. She highlighted how the International Year of Youth is “closely aligned” with Plan’s belief that youths’ voices should always be heard and acted upon by those in positions of power. She said, “The time is now and the youth recognize that they are their own agents for change.”

Remarks were also given by Dr. Jean-Pierre Gonnot, a chief from the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs. He said: “We deeply value the partnership with Plan and Shoot Nations,” and that “never before has there been so much talk about youth around the world in the General Assembly, and this year that talk will be replaced with action.”

Several members of both Plan UK’s youth advisory panel and Plan USA's Youth United for Global Action (YUGA) attended the event and also gave speeches. In her remarks, Claire, one YUGA member, said that, “people say we are the future, but we are not only the future - we are the present. We have a voice now. We have ideas we want to share.”

That message was not lost on the many Plan supporters who attended. Several long-time child sponsors were recognized at the event, including 49-year sponsor Loti Gaffney, and two 45-year sponsors: Arlene Stern and Stevie Phillips. Ms. Gaffney said that she became a sponsor after her son survived a bad car accident nearly 50 years ago. She was so grateful for his survival, that she felt she had to do something to give back.

Ms. Phillips decided to make a commitment to charity and wanted to focus on children. For 45 years she has tried to inspire her sponsored children and encouraged them to chase an education through the letters she has written. She remains excited every time they share their successes with her. “What I get back in return feels almost selfish really. I could never give to them, what they have given to me.”

Jeremy Slezak, whose family have been Plan sponsors for over eighteen years, summed up the experience of becoming a sponsor by saying, “Sponsorship is about being connected to the world, and the personal connection you make with someone, makes the unknown real.”

The photo exhibit, which is on display until September 10, 2010, includes 39 photos, which were selected by the UK organization Shoot Nations from over 2,500 entries coming from over 100 countries. The young photographers were first asked to consider three themes: gender, global warming, and governance. View a slideshow of the photographs showcased in the UN exhibit.